Central America – Tropical Storm Iota weakens, 38 dead

Iota was on the way to dissipate on the night of Wednesday to Thursday in El Salvador after having left at least 38 dead and enormous damage in Central America, already devastated two weeks ago by Hurricane Eta.

On Wednesday, the Nicaraguan authorities announced a new provisional death toll of 18, including 7 children in a landslide and in flooding. Tens of thousands of people are still isolated, without drinking water or electricity.

Honduras, meanwhile, deplores 14 deaths, after the discovery of the bodies of eight people killed in a landslide. Iota also killed two in Guatemala, two in a Colombian Caribbean archipelago, one in Panama and another in El Salvador. The Salvadoran environment ministry announced that, according to forecasts, Iota had lost its intensity during its passage through the country.

But heavy rains continued to fall in northern Nicaragua. After amassing energy in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, Iota made landfall in that country on Monday as a Category 5 hurricane, the highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It was then accompanied by strong winds sometimes reaching 260 km / hour, according to the American hurricane monitoring center, the NHC, which has its headquarters in Miami (Florida).

“Really significant damage”

A government official for the northern Nicaraguan region of the Caribbean, Yamil Zapata, said on Wednesday that Iota had hit infrastructure hard in Bilwi, the main city in that part of Nicaragua.

This hurricane “arrived and finished” destroying everything “what (hurricane) Eta had left standing” only a fortnight ago, Yamil Zapata explained, adding that many homes were damaged. “The damage is really important,” Yamil Zapata told local media.

Residents cross a flooded street in El Progreso, Honduras, November 18, 2020.

AFP

Bilwi, which has more than 40,000 inhabitants, was however able to recover the use of cell phones on Tuesday and the victims began to clean up the rubble on Wednesday. “There is nothing left, the hurricane swept away all the houses that were on the coast,” Esteban Moore, who himself lost his house, told AFP.

In Bilwi the inhabitants wander among the rubble and describe scenes worthy of a “horror film” during the passage of Iota which struck the region to the maximum of its destructive power. In total, more than 110,000 homes are without electricity and more than 47,000 no longer have running water, according to the Nicaraguan authorities.

Climate change

Heavy rains also fell in Guatemala, where the previous hurricane left 46 people dead and 96 missing, with rivers swollen and trees fallen on the roads, but no casualties, according to the authorities.

In Colombia, two people were killed and another was reported missing on two Colombian islands, Santa Catalina and Providencia, where much of the infrastructure was destroyed. In Panama, a woman has died and some 2,000 people are staying in shelters, authorities said.

Flooding and flash flooding could continue in Central America through Thursday due to torrential rains, according to the NHC.

Eta made landfall on November 3 in Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane. It killed at least 200 people and affected 2.5 million people in Central America. Warming seas caused by climate change make hurricanes stronger longer after they make landfall, scientists say.

A record 30 tropical storms have been recorded this season in the Caribbean, Central America, and the southeastern United States. The heads of state of the countries of Central America accused the industrialized countries of being responsible for global warming. They together presented a request for reconstruction aid to international financial organizations on Monday.

AFP/NXP

Posted today at 05:07

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